'Renewal kibbutz' model approved

Finance and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Ehud Olmert signed into effect regulations that create a new category of cooperative community: the "renewal kibbutz" (kibbutz mit'hadesh), the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry said Tuesday. Existing along side the regular "cooperative kibbutz" (kibbutz shittufi) model, renewal kibbutzim will allow the division of the budget among members according to their contribution to the community, position or seniority - and not necessarily equally, the ministry said. Furthermore, the ownership of housing units and stock in communal enterprises can be transferred to members of renewal kibbutzim. Nonetheless, land, water rights and production quotas may not be divided among members, said Ruthy Liraz of the legal dep artment at the Registrar of Cooperatives, a division of the ministry. The regulations also provide for "mutual responsibility" guidelines (arevut hadadit) to ensure a social safety net for members of renewal kibbutzim, "without which, a kibbutz may no longer call itself a kibbutz," said Liraz. These include supplementary income arrangements for those not making minimum wage and help in providing for dependants of members with special needs, she said. Retirement-age members will be eligible to receive a pension equivalent to the maximum amount provided to compensate members who leave the commune. Kibbutzim that request to be included in the "renewal" category must apply the regulations immediately, while those who are categorized as such by the Regist rar of Cooperatives will have up to six months to adapt before the regulations have legal force, Liraz noted. "Since the mid-1980s, kibbutzim have gone through many changes. There were privatizations, budgets were not necessarily evenly divided among mem bers who began receiving 'differential wages,' and members began wanting private ownership," she explained. "This clashed with the legal definition of the kibbutz as being communal property." A 1999 petition to the High Court of Justice by members of Kibbutz Beit Oren demanding a new designation for their community led to the creation of a specialized committee in 2002, which in March 2004 presented the present kibbutz reforms to the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.